tv Call-in with Elaine Weiss The Womans Hour CSPAN October 11, 2019 2:00am-2:46am EDT
elaine white is the author of this book, it's called the women's power. ms. white, nashville august august 1920, how was it like? >> sleepy southern city in summer, time you drink tea and sit on your porch and nashville became the center of the political universe in the united states for several weeks in the summer of 1920 because tennessee might be the last and deciding state to ratify the 19th amendment and tennessee legislature did, then women across the country in every state, in every election for the first time, all women would have the right to vote and was all coming down to tennessee and got
really wild. >> how many women for at voting age? >> 27 million women of voting age, of course, not all would vote and as we know for african-american women and for asian women and for native american women they would not be allowed to vote, the 19th amendment did give vote to all women but jim crow laws in the south and other state laws denied the vote to quite a few women, minorities, 27 million women were eligible to vote and no one knew how they were going to vote and the politicians were worried about it, it was a presidential election and so the presidential candidates were very worried about it, the governor is very worried about it, he's up for reelection, becomes political free for all from the white house to congress to the legislature in nashville.
>> before we get into some of the characters involved, august 17, 60-degrees and sunny and cool? >> no, it wasn't, it was, in fact, the characters that i write about, the participants in the political battle women and men write in memoirs how hot it is, northern women coming down to -- to participate in this battle, this legislative battle of lobbying and filibustering and all those things, they were not used to the heat, so in fact, when i started my research in the summer of 2013, i purposely went down in august so i would feel the heat. i wanted to feel it bearing down on me, it was sort of method acting for historical writers and i did, i felt how it really
is bear down and surround you and then i tried to imagine what it was like without any air-conditioning and wearing 10 pounds of clothes which women had to do. [laughter] >> so it helped me understand how uncomfortable they could be. >> elaine white, why did it come down to tennessee? >> the federal amendment, the suffrage cause had been going on for 7 decades, 72 years at this point if we market from the first organized meeting, 1842. that's not the first time it was discussed. it wasn't the first time women were advocating for it but we market as that from various reasons, the first public, from that time to 1970, 72 years for various that i explain in the
book women were working both as state level and as federal level, they finally got a federal amendment passed after 40 years, it has been stuck in congress for 40 years, since 1878 and in 1919 in world war i and women participating in a different way than they participated before, congress relents narrowly passes it, goes on to the states, 3 quarters of the state have to ratify, 36 states because it's 48 states in the union at the time, 35 have ratified by the summer of 1920 just one more is needed and for various reasons it turns out tennessee is the sort of best hope for the suffrage. >> any other southern states ratified? >> yes, just the two. most had rejected the amendment, had not ratified but texas and
arkansas had, but it was clear that there were two other southern states in play at the beginning of the summer which were north carolina and florida, north carolina rejected it during time tennessee was considering it and then florida refused to call the special session. so for various reasons it came down to tennessee and it was a dangerous place to be seeking the entire enfranchisement of half of the population of the united states because tennessee was a southern state, there was a lot of opposition to suffrage there but there was also a very vibrant women suffrage organization so what happened is they say to national leaders, we can do it, come down and help us, the national leaders come down and you see the fascinating
almost ballet because it was not a unified movement and working against opposition that's very strong and has both corporate and political and religious opposition and leaders of those movements and then it also has women of different -- different persuasions so becomes free for all and it's a fascinating cultural and political and moral question that was alive at the time. >> how did she become the leader of the anti? >> no, the leader of the suffrage movement, pearson -- >> i got my movements wrong.
let's go to josephine. >> i was shocked, i'm not a suffrage scholar and i hadn't been studying this for 40 years, when i encountered the concept that there were women organized all over the country to oppose women suffrage and oppose the federal government i was really shocked. i didn't comprehend that women could oppose their sisters getting the votes but it does teach us that women do not speak monolithically and one of the characters that i followed josephine pearson, she's very well educated, dean of a small college, she's a professor and she comes from a very traditional conservative background in southern
tennessee, the father is a baptist minister -- pardon me, methodist minister and grows up in the household where women moving on out of domestic sphere, not accepted and would elevate women to an equal status as men and she sees that as unnatural, she also has some religious opposition and she has racial opposition because one of the things we encountered especially in the southern states, especially this -- in the black battle that there's opposition because black women would be given the vote by constitutional law and in some of those jim crow states that was not an accepted political concept and so their fighting
against. >> josephine pearson was the anti leader. >> the leader of the tennessee antisuffrage. >> pretty savvy political operator from your book. >> well, she's a very interesting woman, she's also aided by the national antisuffrage leaders who come down from new york, from washington and boston to help her. so she is leading the tennessee contingent, so she's the home team but being assisted by some very, very strong and well-funded women who are opposing and have been opposing in other states, so it's very interesting, she's also a little bit of friction with the national leaders how to run the campaign in tennessee. >> before we leave ms. pearson, describe how she kept her cool?
>> so josephine was called into service, this is now mid-july of 1920, they realized that tennessee is going to deliberate on this, the legislature is going to be called, and so she gets the summons to come to nashville from her home in mount eagle, the southern part of the state, we need you, come immediately, the suffrages are coming, she travels by train to nashville and they've arranged for her to stay in the fanciest hotel at the time, beautiful, beautiful hotel and she's not used to this kind of luxury and, of course, it's not air-conditioned and it's very hot, it's even hotter than usual, the week in july and so she spends the first night in the bath tube running cold water and using the telephone to call
her colleagues and send telegrams saying come to nashville, we need to oppose this amendment, come quickly and so she's doing this from the bathroom, she writes about this in her memoir and i actually checked with the hotel if they had bath tube and did they have showers and, yes, she was in a bath tube. >> one of the leaders. >> yes. right. again, fascinating figure, iowa farm girl, becomes a teacher, widowed, actually widowed twice, susan b. anthony and susan anthony was a very good mentor
and she would sought talent, young women who she thought could be future leaders of the movement and she trained them and have them accompany her on the campaign trail because she was going across the country constantly trying to get interest and enthusiasm for suffrage. so she sees she has the fire and the logistical find to be able to lead the movement and so she becomes -- she actually becomes susan anthony's successor, she literally is anointed by susan anthony to take over in 1900 as susan anthony is aging, and she becomes president for a while and leaves it for a while because her husband is ill and other things, comes back in 1916 and says the women's hour has struck and that's the title of my book and she takes over as
the master strategist. .. .. the way things are going. and a young woman with a phd from the university of pennsylvania has volunteered -- >> sue white. >> actually this is alice who started a movement, radical stream of the suffrage movement. she was such a young adherence, sue white who is the head of the women's party the national women's party splitting off from the mainstream, we see this happening all the time in the
labor movement, the civil rights movement, a young more impatient. so sue white, daughter of west tennessee, wants to be a lawyer, women don't become lawyers, she joined the suffrage movement and then gradually gets impatient and joins alice national women's party becomes ahead of tennessee. those are my three characters that we follow, the head of the establishment, 2 million women who are affiliated with the national american suffrage association in her organization. she comes down to new york to run the strategy for getting the federal amendment group sue white, who is a tenant alice paul, she is running the women's party, to women's organizations, the same goal but working
separately and sometimes at odds with each other and then you have her who is leading the opposition and then a whole translation of men and politicians and corporate lobbyist, we don't think about that but corporate lobbyist were a big part of this equation all gathering in national and having fistfight. >> we will continue to talk to elaine white, we want to make sure you follow the segments if you have questions for her. (202)748-8200 and further those of you in the central time zone. to two separate 8201: and we will get to those in just a minute. sue white, nash mark.
>> i don't have documentation of that moment but they were there in a week and you have both wings of the suffrage movement and headquarters at the hotel, the interceptor just have their headquarters in the lobbyist and the legislators, it was a crazy place in their meeting in the lobby, dining rooms, sometimes they pass and do not speak to each other, but i don't have, a confrontation altogether. but they certainly were bouncing off each other in the hallways. she kept in her suite for most of the time so she such a lightning rod, outsider considered a yankee and she is not allowed to be in public, she
does not go lobby in the legislator. she writes things from her hotel suite. >> who owns sacramento is today and were they helpful? >> so helpful. it is beautifully restored in many of the same elements are there it was built in the 1900s. it's only ten years old and the most literary's place. when i stayed there for the dedication for the suffrage monument and i was there last week to help them kick off the centennial year. they were in the room that was carrying that and that is truly a thrill because one of the things she talked about in her letters is a c house is right out the window, it's only a block and a half away and there i see it. it really blooms of the window in the sense of seeing her
entire legacy being played out in that beautiful statehouse, so close but she cannot go down, she cannot touch it shift the weight for messengers that was really exciting. and actually now it has unveiled in the lobby that is dedicated to the suffrage of what happened in the hotel and they have a beautiful place. >> let's take a call later from diane. diane you are on the phone. >> about a month ago on c-span, i heard something i never heard before that a lot of white men wanted to act the earlier of the
negro men to go. is that true? >> thank you diane. >> did you understand the question, a lot of white men wanted their white waves to vote to counteract the black vote. >> that is very true. there was a sense especially in the south but other places to that there were more white women than black women who could vote and who would be eligible to vote but they would be prevented voting by taxes increasing literacy requirements. but yes, there were white men and i counter that in my book and congressman and say, this by
wife, my daughter to vote so more white women would be voting. it's one of the racial, uncomfortable aspects of the movement that we need to understand and confront and explain. >> it is funny our next three colors are all men. i want to hear what they have to say. jim from california. hi jim. >> they convey much for taking my call. my question is intersection of the suffrage movement because i understand susan b anthony was close friends with the head of the temperate union and coalition was passed at the same time in the women's rights. >> yes indeed. that was a very interesting intersection from the very beginning in the 1870s and
80s when the women christian union begins to organize, many of the suffrage leaders were advocates. we had to understand for some it was a more question but for many others it was a question about domestic violence. because women had very few legal ways to redress an abusive husband or father. police were not interested, they cannot bring them to court so by stemming it as historic, temperance becomes an answer to this domestic violence problem. so the suffragist who are looking at the votes are also looking at the votes to amine to gains other kinds of rights for women. what you will see, even though in the summer of 1920 prohibition is already in effect
and you would say it's all over, why would the liquor lobby be interested in by the way the liquor lobby has been trying to oppose suffrage in all the states and at the federal level for decades because they do not want one woman to get the vote because they fear they will want prohibition so thoroughly in effect and they say wire the interest is still. they were hoping if they could keep women from the ballot then perhaps prohibition would not be enforced so stringently. so they were looking to congress and legislators to enforce prohibition and that's why even in 1920 and a national, they are fighting to stop the federal
amendment and there's a wonderful scene that i describe of something called the jack daniels wheat which was the liquor lobby attempt to persuade legislators that they should not ratify and so it was a speakeasy for the hotel dispensing liquor 24/7 and you have drunk legislators bouncing off the walls singing keep the home fires burning in this is all to keep the federal amendment from being ratified and perhaps helping the liquor industry not be affected as strongly by prohibition. >> left the back, this is augusm the first election. >> that affects what happened in
nashville a great deal. because a political party are nervous about suffrage, some have been supporters and the republicans have been better friends to suffrage both at the state level and national level. >> it was interesting, we have to move things around in her eyes, republicans supported the movement more strongly and they were for the most part supported of reform in fighting the trust and reforms like clean milk and fraternal milk. they were actually the heroes in many states of the suffrage movement. so you have the political parties, very nervous about suffrage as presidential elections and then you have the candidates who play a part in my
story because both the suffragist and anti-suffragist want the candidates to support them. and they go up and they're both from ohio and he's winning with the young franklin roosevelt as his vice president. and then we have warren g harding who is running and they're both being courted and pressed by the suffragist in the anti-suffragist. so you do see the presidential election is really effort to all the things happening in nashville. >> robert is calling in from california. morning robert. >> good morning sir. i just wanted to pass on for my late grandmother, who was part of the whole suffrage movement
out of minnesota back in the day to get the vote and then she was an educator as well and then she started a private organization and at that time a lot of the women could not own property or cash a check or anything so they had a private party called the peo which nobody else knew, the guys did not know this. but it was pop's evening out. and they would act money to send girls to school and i just wanted to pass on. >> that is fascinating. thank you for sharing that. one of the great things as i've toured around the country talking about my book in the suffrage movement and i've been to minnesota and there was very
vibrant activism there and there was a scandinavian women suffrage association who actually would go to suffrage parades in native costumes into one of the things to understand, we pick of the suffrage movement as may be susan b anthony and elizabeth stanton and we don't have a sense of how large this movement was then in every city in every state and every town there were suffragist organizing and african american women, organizing, latino women organizing and one of the great things about the centennial since were now entering the centennial years, august 2020 will be the 100 anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. in every state is beginning the commemoration. one of the great things it is stirring more research at the local level.
so were going into archives and places that were not looked at to get all the voices into the story like the black women's club, like the church records, all these places that told the story of ordinary women who really make a big sacrifice, they risk reputations and risk being condemned, their pastors are against them and they are very brave and at every level alter the country in one of the great things, we are getting much larger, much more complex, more colorful idea of the suffrage movement was. it was not just two ladies at the top. sir grandmother as part of that. >> from the women's hour, that the franchise movement of the
american woman. that is a step in the process. they were eventually disposed by wiseman on their daughters and sisters. the women asked politely -- and without much trauma those two women went to achieve that hour. next call jim, and harbor michigan. >> thank you. particularly where do they go? >> i apologize, very difficult to understand you. if you're on speaker or on a cell phone, that will not work
for us. speak very clearly into your phone. thank you. >> my question is, the women and how they evolved or did not evolve after the minute was passed, did they say i'm not going to vote on principle or do they ultimately evolve? >> thank you very much. the anti-after. >> that's a wonderful question and i do deal with that in the afterward of the book. one of the fascinating and unexpected result is after ratification when the women who fought so hard to word this meanamendment that would give a woman a vote. they take advantage of the political power and they do both. they learn to organize and while the suffragist dissipate, they go off in different directions and of course there are legacy
organizations of the suffragist, carrie cat forms the legal voters which is at 100 years still going strong across the country, alice paul of the women's party formed the draft the equal rights amendment which has been not ratified after 96 years. it was introduced to congress in 1923. they enter suffragist actually organize and use their newfound electoral power and the organizational skills to try to oppose certain legislation in congress that they feel is government overreach and they call it socialist if that sounds familiar. they accuse the suffragist that are still supporting of you turn the health, legislation, they
evolve into the anti-communist activist of the mid-20th century. we see them working through training organizations, advocacy organizations and receive them in the mccarthy era and receive them again emerge in the 1970s and 80s as the eagle forum. we have conservative women who have learned to harness the political power and i think we still achieve the product of that organization. so yes they did. pearson felt that she could not after fighting this for so long, vote so she devised a very strange scheme which was, she
would tell a man in her hometown how she wanted to vote and he would go and vote for her. that's how she solved this. >> so she never voted the rest of her life? >> that's how she describes it. i can't tell you if some point she relented but she had strong opinions but she let a man vote for her. >> jackie from texas. go ahead. >> hello thank you for taking my call. i was wondering do you see any parallels between the abortion issue in america in the suffrage issue as it played out in the 1900s? >> that's a very interesting question. i'm not sure i see a direct comparison but again the
suffragist, many were also feminine. and they were working, not just for the vote but the vote as a tool to be able to be represented in congress and the state legislators to make sure that women have rights which they had been denied and many of them had to do with agencies and being able to make decisions on their own. you have to understand when the suffrage movement begins in the mid-19th century, not only women could not vote, they cannot own properties, married women did not have custodial rights to her children if she divorced, she cannot testify in a court of law, she could not serve on a jury and so a lot of the idea of suffrage as being the tool to guarantee women's
rights of her own decision-making and agency, i think there are some parallels but i think it gets much more complicated as i'm sure you agree. so i hesitate to make a direct comparison but i think again, women working for their own rights to make decisions about whether it is their bodies or their legislators, it is part of the whole larger idea of suffrage as a tool for reading rights. >> how controversial was this in 2019. >> when congress finally got around to voting, in the house it passed somewhat comfortably. i think it was about a handful
of votes. again you would think by 1920 it would've been okay, women are equal to men in a political sense, let's get this done. but it was not. in the house actually votes on 1918 and the senate refuses to actually voted on twice in the next year end half and finally it passes by two votes. so the idea that this was a time i come in a political -- it is still very controversial. and woodward wilson has come around arguably and slowly to supported the idea of the suffrage amendment and the federal amendment so he does
supported but that's an interesting evolution that i put in the book also. it was still tough, it was not an easy road even in 1920, even seven decades after the first asked for the boat. >> ruth from maryland. >> i just have a couple questions. one, in order to pass amendment you need to have two thirds of the vote in women i think voted about 31% in the first election and maybe men were more interested. and mostly that there is more for protection than it was for the national women's party of a small group in a little bit more average and things like that. thank you.
>> okay, to answer the first question, it is true that in the first election in 1920 which the amendment is ratified only ten weeks before the election and so there was a big rush to register women. but it could not evolve or be a bush. some states like georgia refused to extend their deadlines and the deadline to pass and they refused because they do not want black women to vote. so only again as you said one in three eligible women voted in 1920 and we talked about that. she said, you have fought for all these years, how come only one in three women voted and she says voting is learned. it is something that you learn, you get used to doing and women are not accustomed to doing it yet. they will learn. it takes longer than i think she
expected it takes about 40 years and that's until 1962 american women participation in a 1980 this passes but the participation of men were significantly more women votes than men. in today's election at the national level. the second question -- >> that there were other issues involved in the women's party. >> i think we are talking about the civil rights amendment. it is true that not all women who were in suffragist supported equal rights amendment. one of the things that has been accomplished in the decades before 1920 was that they had managed to past protection laws for women in industry.
women are working in factories at this time in their working in sweatshops and they passed the legislation that says you can only work ten hours or 12 hours not 20 hours. and you cannot lift more than 2. this was protection for women's health. and this was the union which had emerged to predict women. so the equal rights amendment might jeopardize the special protections which they dirty one in congress for women. so there was actually a disagreement among these women about whether be equal rights of moment or be beneficial. that is also a history. in eleanor was about supported. it is a very interesting history
of the amendment and you are right that there were issues of protection. but that was not what the suffrage movement. >> from arizona yet 30 seconds. go ahead. >> good morning. my question is, to what degree did men who understood the ability of their wives and sisters and daughters play a role in the suffrage movement? >> thank you. >> they played a large role and there was very important and supportive men champions and there is a great book that came out a year or two ago all the suffragist and it's about the meal in the league that has been supported and suffered. only men can make decisions. men had to be in men could only work in the legislators and only
men in congress in 1918 as only women who was a first woman elected to congress and there's only one and when referendum at the state level or adjudication, it's only make a decision. so having male allies, we see some very praised male allies step up in nashville. and so, men were important. you have somebody in the series is a new panel. >> yes, executive producer's secretary hillary clinton, she read the book and really found it a story that we should know. . . .
>> guest: she says let's bring this story to a wide audience, and that's what we're doing. >> host: how do you react when secretary clinton calls and says she wants to be involved in your book? >> guest: take a deep breath, i was thrilled, and she's been a wonderful, wonderful and supportive partner. >> host: and the women's hour is now out in paperback, here's the paperback cover, "the great fight to win the vote." elai